Martin Swan Violins is a specialist dealership in fine string instruments and a global leader in the sale of French bows. We have a wide and diverse international clientele in the UK, Europe, the USA and Asia, ranging from keen amateur traditional players to the concertmasters of prestigious orchestras. You can look at notable sales here.
This website is our shop window. We also welcome customers by appointment to our showroom in Wells, Somerset, and we make regular trips to meet clients in London, Brussels, Cologne, Munich and Vienna.
We offer instruments and bows with great playing qualities, focusing on items in excellent or ‘as new’ condition. These are sold with independent certificates from respected appraisers. We don’t cut corners and we don’t make exaggerated claims. We used to collect customer reviews but nowadays we are happy to let our reputation rest on word of mouth.
We have long-standing relationships with many of our clients, and at busy times we will prioritise requests from them. If you haven’t bought anything from us in the past and are interested in making a purchase we would prefer to meet you in person. This allows us to discuss your requirements in the context of trying out a selection of instruments or bows in your price range. If it is impractical to meet, we can often send items by courier for a trial period, depending on the value and the destination. We generally ask new clients for a deposit to cover courier and insurance costs: for shipping within the UK, we ask £100; internationally it is £200. The deposit will be refunded if you buy from us. All of our items are shipped in specialist packaging which is tried and tested – violins and violas are sent with the set-up in place.
Buying from us is risk-free. You will have no doubt about the condition or the authenticity of an item you purchase from us, and you will have the time you need to make sure it’s right for you.
The City of Wells & Avenue House
The City of Wells is the smallest city in England and at its heart is the magnificent cathedral, which is Europe’s first truly Gothic structure. Highlights include a 24-hour astronomical clock, sci-fi ‘scissor arches‘ and some splendid 14th century stained glass. The High Parts Tour allows visitors to visit the hidden roof spaces and galleries of the cathedral. Conveniently nearby, but inexplicably fortified, is the Bishops Palace with its gardens, moat and emblematic swans. Connected to the cathedral by the Chain Gate Bridge is Vicar’s Close, a photogenic medieval street which was built as accommodation for the members of the Vicars Choral when they were thought to be succumbing to worldly temptations whilst lodging among the townsfolk…
The Vicars Choral still sing the daily services in the cathedral, usually accompanied by choristers from the Wells Cathedral Music School. Hidden in the grounds of the music school is a world-class performing arts venue, Cedars Hall, which hosts a busy calendar of classical and traditional music along with talks about the visual arts. This series of art ‘Chats’ are organised by Project Factory which also initiated the installation of Antony Gormley’s provocative work DOUBT on the West Front of the Cathedral.
On Sundays – and at other unexpected times – the bellringing group ‘Wells Bells‘ dominate the airwaves, using either the Cathedral’s 10 bells (the heaviest ring in the world) or the 8 bells in St Cuthberts church.
Wells has provided the backdrop for a number of historical dramas and it famously inspired the village of Sandford in the cult action movie Hot Fuzz – locations here. For one night in November the streets are taken over by a spectacular West Country Guy Fawkes carnival.
In 2017 we bought Avenue House, in the centre of Wells, as a home for both ourselves and the business. It’s an impressive Regency town house but has had a chequered history and required substantial renovation. You can follow us on Instagram for photos of the house and garden as they are now: avenue_house_wells.
Martin Swan Violins is the trading name of Ashmole & Swan Ltd, registered in Scotland, company No. SC479345. Registered office: 5 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AN. (This is for government use only, please do not use it for general post).
We are registered for VAT and use the VAT margin schemes for antiques and for artisan products. Any VAT element is included in the sale prices we quote and in most cases the VAT cannot be reclaimed. Our VAT number is GB 119 2104 48.